How to Monetize an Email List

by Tim Davidson
11 min read

If you’ve spent the time to build up your followers and have a high-quality group of connections, the next natural step is to monetize your email list and start to bring in some funds for your efforts. But this leads to questions like “how exactly do I do that?” and “will it scare away my contacts?”.

The truth is that people are used to being marketed to, although there are a few different methods that can ease your users into so they don't feel you're taking advantage of them. Even if you don't have a huge amount of contacts that doesn’t usually pose a problem as you only need around 100-200 subscribers to successfully monetize an email list. What matters more is how willing they are to engage with the emails you send out.

Consider your response rate, do you get a lot of feedback from the content you’re producing, and are they actively engaging with the content? If your users are keeping you on your toes with questions and queries, then you have a solid email list and can start to monetize it with only a few teething problems.

Here's a quick overview of what we'll be covering in this article:

  1. Why you should monetize your email list
  2. Methods to monetize an email list
  3. Paid Newsletter or Membership Site
  4. Sales Marketing (Direct marketing)
  5. Affiliate Marketing
  6. What is the best practice to monetize an email list?
  7. Discover the best times to send your emails
  8. Split your emails into targeted blocks
  9. Make use of native advertisements
  10. Using the right tools to increase your subscriber base

Why you should monetize your email list

If you’ve been putting out great content that has value then you can argue that you should receive something in exchange. When you monetize an email list, you’re using your user base to earn some income from your hard work. You can make this money in a few different ways, and provided you’re not overdoing the marketing, your followers and subscribers will be totally okay with your efforts.

There are a variety of ways that you can monetize an email list, and figuring out which is best suited to your subscribers is key to having the best successes. Another key point to using your email subscribers to build your business and your following is to use strategies to get them to help you build your list.

At Quizpipe, one of our aims is to help you build an email list by offering you tools to create quizzes that will entice and interest your users. Quizzes are perfect for increasing your email subscribers as if they enjoy the quiz, they’re likely to send it out to like minded people through email or Facebook groups and other social media channels. This can result in a much greater number of people completing the quiz, which in turn can lead to more subscribers to add to your email list!

screenshot of the quizpipe analytics dashboard with a line graph

There’s more to it than that, but if you’re even a little intrigued about how this could work for you, head over to our home page and sign up for a free trial.

Methods to monetize an email list

Sending out emails to people who have asked for your content makes monetization easier as they’ve already noted an interest in what you have to say, and possibly sell. Think about your own inbox, do you open the email from people or businesses that you know give good offers and they’re relevant to you? Odds are the answer is yes, and these are the same sort of strategies you can use.

While there are many ways you can monetize an email list, these three are the most common methods used:

Using email to send out free information to your subscribers is great, but it can leave you with little to sell. A paid subscription offers your users more detailed information. Think of your standard email newsletter to be the teaser trailer, and the paid subscription as the feature. You give them a taste of what they’re going to see, and then when they pay for your content, they’ll get the full amount. There are many services that operate in this manner and provided you can offer your subscribers value for what you're giving them, they'll be happy to pay for your services.

This approach works best with newsletters where you’re doing research into topics that your readers don’t have the time or skills to summarize. A good example is a good friend of mine who runs a blog called A Rich Life. He provides news on business, arts, and cultural events and charges a recurring monthly subscription to his newsletter. The content is well researched and highly valuable to his readers, and they’re willing to remunerate him for the effort involved.

There’s a ton of debate and theory on how much you should charge for this kind of content. The school of thought is broken into two main arguments:

  1. Charge what you believe your time is worth
  2. Charge what you believe the content is worth to your readers

Both options are feasible. If you’re going to charge for your time, consider the amount of time it takes you to produce the content. Try to find an amount that people are willing to pay and stick to it.

Working out the value of your content can be more difficult if you’re not directly impacting your reader’s bottom line. If you know you can give investment advice that will make someone $500, you can use this to steer your decision.

If you’re still stuck on how much to charge, simply asking what people will pay for your content can be the solution. A good way to do this is to build a quick quiz, send it out to your readers and let the answers guide you.

Sales Marketing (Direct marketing)

contactless credit card payment machine with hand holding a credit card

If you have items for sale, adding in ads to your newsletters or other email content can provide value for your users. But, make sure it is something that you specifically can offer and that it’s related to what your emails are about.

Sales marketing can easily be overdone, and your subscribers are really coming to you for what you can offer, not what you can sell. However, provided that sales are not the main purpose of the email then blending in a few sales items will not hurt. As we said before people sort of expect it but being blasted with sales items will send them away.

This approach can be a little harder when you’re starting out, simply because you need to have something to sell. Creating or acquiring that “thing” is often a mission of its own. If you’re luckily enough to have the skills to create an eCourse or create a product, then you're way there.

The biggest take away when you’re writing to your email subscribers about the product that’s for sales is to remember you don’t need to include a sales pitch in every email!

The general rule of thumb for your email schedule breakdown is 5% direct marketing emails trying to sell your product, 20% soft selling emails where you mention your product but mainly focus on delivering value in your messaging, and finally 75% of pure value content where you don’t sell at all.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is similar to sales marketing except you’re selling other businesses’ products and earning a commission. Affiliate marketing is a great for a number of reasons, but it’s especially good when you’re first starting out because you don’t need to actually own any of the products you're selling.

However, the same applies from sales marketing, you don't want to overdo it; and be open about what you're offering. Ideally you only want to link to items that you yourself have used. Otherwise you run the risk of recommending something that is either a bad product, or not suitable for your users; doing that will tarnish your reputation and you’ll lose subscribers.

There are so, so, so many great affiliate programs out there that you can join. You can typically expect to earn up to 40% commission if you find a great program. A couple of examples are ConvertKit, Clickbank, and Amazon. Although, we’d suggest being careful when diving into Amazon affiliate marketing because it’s a super competitive space and the commission rates are rather low.

What is the best practice to monetize an email list?

For the best return on investment, you can follow a few simple guidelines to properly monetize an email list. While this is no way a definitive resource it can be a great start! All marketing needs to be evaluated for performance and then changes applied to see it will work better using a different method. By starting with these few tips, you can see positive results faster.

Discover the best times to send your emails

Finding out this information can take time, but usually 6am-10am, and 6pm - 12pm weekdays are a good start. You can try varying when you send out emails to see which works best for your particular email list.

If you’ve only started to monetize an email list, you can start with Tuesdays at 10am, as this is purported to have the best email opening and click through rates, and then adjust from there. After you find the sweet spot for your emails, the key for continued growth is being consistent. Keep sending out emails at those times (and send out the occasional email at another time; it makes it seem more special).

Split your emails into targeted blocks

While your emails list is full of people wanting to hear what you're talking about, they’re simply not going to be interested in everything! For example, you may write a gardening newsletter, but some people only want to see information on growing vegetables and not native plants.

By splitting your email into groups or segments, it allows your followers to go directly to the content that most appeals to them; and the marketing that specifically targets their needs. This is exactly what newspapers and magazine have been doing for years, almost every page has something that will interest different readers.

Make use of native advertisements

Native advertising means making sure your content is relatable to your article or newsletter. It should blend in with the content and not be the proverbial ‘sore thumb’. You can think of native advertising the same way movies and television use product placement; we all know it's there but the advertising seems like a natural thing (unless it’s done very poorly).

When native advertising is done properly it can feel like a part of the content itself, and this lowers the ad recognition rate by your subscribers, which in turn makes them feel less like they’re simply being marketed to. But, as with all marketing, don’t overdo it!

Using the right tools to increase your subscriber base

Quizzes have been shown as an excellent resource when it comes to drawing people to your site. Provided they are designed properly and targeted towards people that may honestly enjoy your content, then you’ll get value from adding these into your newsletter emails.

You can share links to quizzes in your newsletter, which can actually serve a several purposes:

  1. Your followers will click on the link, and that can give you a good idea for how likely they are to click on advertisements.
  2. It gives your subscribers further entertainment value from your newsletters.
  3. You subscribers can share the link to the quiz, or their results, to friends and colleagues that have a similar interest. Which can help add valuable emails to your subscriber list.

Quizpipe can offer you the tools to make amazing quizzes than can stimulate your subscribers and provide them with an interactive element to your email newsletter. As a bonus, if the quiz is written properly you can see what your subscribers are most likely to purchase, and this can add to your marketing prospects and sales.

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